– Yes, you’re old.
– Be sure you’ve read the Best and Worst of WWE Money in the Bank 2015.
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– Real Life Thing Update: If you live in or around Texas and/or want to travel to a wrestling show that will be worth the trip, Inspire Pro Wrestling has another show this Sunday at the Marchesa in Austin, TX. If you ever wanted to see a blogger put his money where his mouth is, this is that. Here’s the flyer for the event, so even if you can’t go, check that out. If you need proof that I’m creatively involved somehow, it’s got Blue Pants AND El Mariachi Loco on it.
Anyway, here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for June 15, 2015.
Best: Monday Night Rollins
First of all, as sad as it is to see the WWE World Heavyweight Champion relying on “I hate your local sports team” to get heat, five stars to Seth Rollins for calling Johnny Manziel “Johnny Idiot Face.” If Seth wants to go full-on Shooter McGavin and be the empowered, entitled prick who’s great at what he does but prone to cheating and not able to think on his feet, I’m in.
Second of all, I appreciate that they’ve noticed Rollins’ inability to keep it brief and have turned that into part of his character. He’s objectively terrible at this, but the right kind of terrible to make things like calling out Cleveland championships and giving long-winded appreciation speeches to himself work. I want to see him get punched in the face, but in the good way. Not in the Sheamus way where you want the punches to physically force him off-screen. Maybe that’s just me.
Third of all, I’m happy that Dean Ambrose explained why he’d still interrupt Rollins, still attack him and still stage sit-ins for wrestling matches after losing fair and square at Money in the Bank and admitting it afterwards. Normally the face would just show up and demand another shot, and we’d accept it and think it makes sense because “it’s wrestling.” By taking a second to say, “I lost and that’s cool but you’re a sore winner and reminded me of how much I hate you, so I want to keep kicking your ass whether it makes me champion or not,” you give Ambrose a motivation that doesn’t require any further explanation, but stays smarter and more reasoned than “this is what we always do.”
Worst: Let’s Do All The Bad Stuff And F*ck-Finishes At Once
Of course, there are problems.
The first is the disconnect between matches and their finishes we’ve been living through for a while now, where stuff happens and stories build and build to a finish, but then we instantly erase the work to do a safer bullshit milquetoast thing to “protect” everyone. Sheamus interrupts Dean’s sit-in and they decide to have a match, so like, either finish works, right? If Sheamus beats Ambrose, you could rationalize that Ambrose’s head isn’t in the game and Sheamus is tough and good enough to be Mr. Money in the Bank. Plus, Ambrose got hit with chairs and ladders for 40 minutes yesterday. If Ambrose wins, he’s powered by his Rollins rage, BOTH men were less than 100% because of Previous Day Ladder Matches and you’re building Sheamus as a briefcase-wielding opportunist anyway, right?
When you have the briefcase, the only moment that actually matters is the cash-in. Carrying it around in airports doesn’t make you cool or better at wrestling than anybody else. It’s not a championship. It’s a novelty you won in a climbing contest. If you cash-in in timely or spectacular fashion, it makes you. If you don’t (and you’re not John Cena), you’re done, because it’s the easiest WWE match to win.
Instead of picking one bad finish for the match, we do a bunch of them: Sheamus leaves the ring and tries to get intentionally counted-out, because he started the fight and made the challenge but isn’t winning easily. He gets distracted by Randy Orton’s music, which causes him to (after a brief exchange) get rolled-up and pinned. After the match, babyface Orton hops in the ring and attacks heel Sheamus until he flees. Meanwhile Dean Ambrose, the guy who was gonna stage a sit-in on Raw until he got his fight with Rollins, just kinda disappears. Uh, guess that wasn’t super important.
Oh well, at least none of these guys is Wade Barrett.
Best: R-Truth Calling Byron Saxton “Coach”
Worst: The Rest Of This, Because Jesus Christ
Continuing his quest to be the worst pro wrestler in f*cking history, King Barrett has the next in his endless string of rematches with R-Truth, now carrying a lunger and wearing a bed sheet and calling himself “King What’s Up.” It’s so bad that Truth doesn’t know he’s in the match, and sits in on commentary. Despite being in his street clothes, being dressed like a king, doing no match prep at all and not knowing he was scheduled to compete, Truth beats Barrett in 20 seconds. It’s so humiliating I can’t even continue my Game of Thrones booking. I’m going to have to start booking it based on Dancer in the Dark.
The only highlights are Truth on commentary before the match begins, from thinking Byron is Jonathan Coachman to JBL’s deadpan no-sell of Truth quoting Diff’rent Strokes.
“You realize that you’re actually in this match? You’re fighting King Barrett.”
“Whatchoo talkin’ bout, Willis?”
“Right now. Who’s Willis?”
Worst: Machine Gun Kelly Paid $80 Extra And Got “Backstage Passes”
Sometimes at indie shows (or TNA) they’ll charge extra for “backstage passes,” with the idea that during the show you’ll get escorted backstage to see how it all gets put together and meet and greet your favorite stars. The rub is that you don’t actually go backstage, because if you did you’d see how it all gets put together and that would kill the show, so they take you to a side room somewhere, herd in a few wrestlers and tell them to sit around tying their shoes while you talk to them.
That’s what the backstage bit with Machine Gun Kelly reminded me of. The idea is that WWE Superstars are excited to see him because he’s A Prestigious Rapper and not the store brand Macklemore, but they scraped the bottom of the f*cking barrel for the meet and greet. Fandango? Zack Ryder? Heath Slater? Here’s Alicia Fox, who we briefly forgot existed. Is Jackson Andrews back here somewhere? What about Eric Escobar? I’m sure Eric Escobar would love to meet Machine Gun Kelly.
Best: The ‘Celebrating The Dream’ Videos
Thank you for scheduling my emotional breakdowns to correspond with your wrestling shows, WWE.
Best: The Kevin Owens Show
Let’s pause our wrestling cynicism for a moment to watch me devolve into a clapping, happy 5-year old.
I’m still not sure how it happened, but Kevin Steen — a guy who I never really got into when he was Ring of Honor Champion and the hot thing on the independent circuit — has become my conduit to the WWE Universe. On a show where I can’t identify with or get behind anyone, this pissed-off, neckbeareded Quebecois dad shows up in a t-shirt and basketball shorts and does everything I’ve ever wanted anyone to do. It’s coincidental, obviously, but I feel like the words I write in these columns get turned into a really mean-spirited dude and he pushes folks into the air and slams them down by their thighs specifically to make me happy.
The first moment is during his promo, where he brought up some of the same stuff I brought up in the Best and Worst of Money in the Bank. He points out that Cena’s a sore loser who couldn’t just walk to the back after winning like he did at Elimination Chamber, he had to hang out and play the hero and make the post-match respect all about him. He had to make Owens shake his hand to consider the beef over, because Cena only respects you if he beats you and can control you. He told Owens he belongs here — something Cena assumes he can do because the Undertaker did it for him, I guess, and something he didn’t do when Owens BEAT HIM CLEAN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RING A FEW WEEKS AGO. When Cena lost, Owens wasn’t a man. When Owens lost, Cena respected him. What kind of jacked logic is that?
The second moment is the match, which continues Owens’ two-night streak of having the best match on the show. He makes an open challenge and Dolph Ziggler accepts (because hey, Ziggler realizes his current glass ceiling is “best guy in developmental”). Owens says it’s an open challenge for a match but not a TITLE match, because you have to EARN those, because the NXT Championship actually has rules and regulations and matters. Also, because Owens is a colossal piece of garbage and wants to make sure he doesn’t lose the belt. It’s wonderful. The best part is that Owens straight-up beats Ziggler the same way he beat Cena: by kicking out of all his shit and pop-up powerbombing him in the middle of the ring. No distraction rollups, no grabbing the tights, no cheap shots behind the referee’s back. Owens is just WRECKING these people, and he’s telling the truth about it.
Surprisingly, none of this is KO’s best moment of the night.
Best: MGK Gets Eric Bischoff’d
Later in the show, THE ULTIMATE UNDERDOG WHO IS JUST LIKE JOHN CENA Y’ALL Machine Gun Kelly performs. He’s not bad, but he’s accompanied by a lady who can’t hear herself and kinda sings like a car wreck, and it goes for five minutes. The entire time, jerks like me make jokes like, “hey, wouldn’t it be awesome if Kevin Owens just ran out in the middle of this and powerbombed him off the stage?” We laugh and imagine it as this psychotic thing that can never be, and continue mindlessly checking our phones until the music’s over.
Then, Kevin Owens shows up and POWERBOMBS HIM OFF THE STAGE.
What I love about it is that Owens is being disrespectful, but he’s still justified enough in his actions to explain it away. He came out to be a jerk and refused MGK’s handshake, but didn’t put his hands on him. MGK shoved him first. So Owens booted him in the stomach, lifted him into the air like so much useless Sami Zayn and tossed him topknot-first to the damn floor. Well, onto some loose carpeting and cardboard boxes, but still, the visual is there. Kevin Owens believes his derisive clapping is enough, and if you ask for more from him than he wants to give, you have to die. Maybe his kids hate Ohioan rap.
Surprisingly still, even this isn’t KO’s best moment of the night.
Best: The Explanation
If you don’t get anything else out of the column this week, watch this clip. Jojo finds Owens backstage and asks him how he could attack a guest of the show. His response:
“What do you mean why? ‘Cause I felt like it. Grow up.”
I love you, Kevin Owens. Never change.
Worst: To Bring You Down, Here’s Randy Orton Vs. Kane
We were in danger of enjoying the show a little too much, so here’s Randy Orton to chinlock Kane for a few minutes until Kane uses his vaguely-defined “Director of Operations” title to make it a handicap match. Sheamus shows up, Orton gets decked and Kane wins. Can you hear the excitement in my typing?
This isn’t a new observation by any means, but the past several years of WWE programming have made the top-tier guys the most boring people in the world. One of the reasons we’re all on board with Cena doing his US Championship Open Challenges is that we get to see Cena wrestle new matches. He goes for 10 minutes with Stardust, puts over Kevin Owens, almost puts over Neville, even gets some work out of Zack Ryder. He’s stepped out of the Play-Doh spaghetti maker that is the WWE Main Event Scene. Meanwhile, you’ve got Randy Orton and Kane and Sheamus still circling the drain, wrestling each other week-in and week-out in these useless, immediately-forgettable matches with bad finishes to build to useless, just-as-forgettable pay-per-view matches with bad finishes. The cycle resets, and they change dance partners. Now you’re wrestling BIG SHOW! The cycle resets. Now you’re wrestling Randy Orton! But I AM Randy Orton! SORRY YOU’RE WRESTLING RANDY ORTON, THAT’S WHAT WE WROTE DOWN.
This match could’ve been Orton pulling a gun on Kane and shooting him in the chest in the middle of the ring and it would’ve still felt numb. You set this context, guys. I wish you hadn’t. I don’t ever want to feel like this, and it’s the only way you ask me to feel. Break the context.
Worst: No Divas Are Faces And Everyone’s Afraid Of Stephanie McMahon
So, okay. Paige has for whatever reason decided that the Bella Twins have been Divas Champion for 7 years, and she’s had enough. She goes full Jerry Maguire and takes a stand, asking her co-workers to stand with her. The response is the most accidentally ironic thing in the world, with Alicia Fox (ALICIA FOX) pointing out that Paige isn’t trustworthy and has turned on every partner she’s ever had.
Let’s look at the photo and break it down. You’ve got THREE Fandango ex-girlfriends. Rosa Mendes has never stuck with a gimmick or tag team for more than a few months, has been portrayed as a borderline psychotic with severe mental issues on Total Divas and responded to her breakup by backstage-Frenching Adam Rose. Summer Rae is responsible for turning Sasha Banks AND Charlotte heel in NXT, then breaking up the team with inattentiveness and heel jealousy. She spend three months punishing Fandango for dumping her, and just recently finished a story where she pretended to be sexually interested in Damien Mizdow to swerve him and help The Miz. Layla is 1/2 of LayCool, the most obnoxiously offensive and mean-spirited Divas team in WWE history, and eventually drove her own best friend to an early retirement. Her latest story was fighting Fandango’s ex-girlfriend with kitty litter, then teaming up with her in a weird Thelma & Louise attempt at revenge. You’ve got Naomi, the woman who recently jumped Paige from behind out of jealousy because she thought she deserved a title shot, and Tamina, a hired gun who once bodyguarded Vickie Guerrero to protect her from AJ, then bodyguarded for AJ to protect her from everyone else. There’s Emma, who ditched her boyfriend at his BBQ event and went back to NXT to slum it and pick on Bayley (the nicest character in WWE). And then there’s GODDAMN ALICIA FOX, whose only identifiable character trait is that she jumps from heel to face so quickly and regularly we never know what she is. She spent most of last year pouring sodas on people and acting crazy. What has Paige done? Been “frenemies” with AJ? Get some f*cking perspective.
Anyway, the Bellas show up and humiliate Paige by showing her that nobody will stand beside her, because they’re … the faces? And Paige is just jealous? I have no idea. Everyone leaves and the Bellas decide to sit down in the middle of a hallway for some reason, because nothing they have ever done has made a goddamn lick of sense.
Best: Again, The Wrestling’s Not Bad
The good news, I guess, is that the wrestling’s here. Paige puts herself in a handicap match against the Bella Twins to show that she’s not afraid of them, and to illustrate that if you have to face one Bella, you have to face them both. This seemed like a setup for someone to show up at Paige’s side and be heroic, but it didn’t happen. Paige fought valiantly, because she’s … the face? But she loses. Nikki wins with a smile on her face, because wrestling doesn’t hurt and she’s totally fine.
I don’t want to fantasy book the NXT women’s division showing up again like I always do, but that’s gotta be it, right? Paige is the first NXT Women’s Champion. She was the first face of “good NXT women’s wrestling,” right? So if the Divas Division is being lorded over by the Bella Twins and we’ve seen that every other Diva on the roster is too afraid to take a stand and do something, Paige goes to NXT and brings up Charlotte and Becky and Sasha to back her up, right? That’s the only thing that makes sense, other than “Paige continues to be lonely and the Bellas win forever.”
There’s so much you can do with it. You can have Bayley feel bad that she’s a “four horsewoman” of NXT, but wasn’t respected or tough enough to get called up with her crew. You can develop her down in NXT while Alexa and Carmella and Dana Brooke and whoever else get their footing and replace the old guard. Emma can be the connection that keeps Bayley down, and maybe Emma can be the Wormtongue of the main roster group.
Best: “He Got Miz All Over Me!”
It’s probably biologically impossible to enjoy what’s happening with the Intercontinental Championship over the past … ever, but Ryback getting The Miz thrown onto him and yelling HE GOT MIZ ALL OVER ME is shoot hilarious. It’s the YOU MADE ME BLEED MY OWN BLOOD of lousy undercard meandering.
Worst: Roman Reigns Would Be My Favorite Wrestler Ever If He Just Ran Backstage And Punched Bray Wyatt In The Face
Fantasy booking: Roman Reigns is in the ring looking for answers. He’s interrupted by Bray Wyatt on the TitanTron, and the lights go down. Bray starts talking about forgiveness and fear and demons or whatever in his smokey backstage promo room, when all of a sudden Roman jumps into frame and Superman Punches him. Go full Black Dynamite with it. The lights come on and it’s like, a janitor’s closet. Roman: “NEW FACE THIS, MOTHERF*CKER.” Then he cocks his wrist and walks out. Instant megastar forever.
Best: Stay Positive, Everybody
I really enjoyed this week’s Not Main Event between The New Day and The Prime Time Players Featuring Neville. Remember how great WWE got for a while with those Shield and Wyatt Family six-man tags? Not only the ones where they fought each other. Every other Raw or Smackdown would have one of the teams against three randomly-assembled babyfaces and they’d tear it up for 15 minutes. That’s a top shelf use of your midcard talent, especially when so many guys on the midcard are coming into their own. How great does Darren Young look in the ring? How much better has Xavier Woods gotten? These guys deserve a spotlight if they’re putting in the work to get better, so instead of booking two additional meaningless distraction rollups, maybe throw a bunch of them into a match and give them a few minutes? Maybe? Please?
I’m a little worried that this is as much as Neville’s ever gonna get, though. Evan Bourne went through a similar thing where he showed up and was awesome and got all this acclaim, but then shit happened and he ended up being the guy with the cool move who ends tag matches. That’s not a terrible place to be, I guess, especially not on WWE TV, but we spent the last two years or whatever watching him grow from “talented wrestler” to NXT Ace, and I’d have for this groundswell of Kevin Owens and Finn Bálor and Whoever to rise up and swallow him. “Purple superhero guy” is cool, but not forever.
Don’t take that as too big of a complaint, though. All of these guys are doing well right now, I just want to see it keep going. The tag team division has been kind of a momentum graveyard since the early 2000s.
Best: THE ROLLINS THE
If you heard a loud crash and wondered what it was, it’s just a unicorn jumping down through my roof into my living room, scooping me up onto its back and flying up through the roof hole to take me to my happy place. My happy place, of course, is BROCK F*CKING LESNAR, and he’s back to stand still and stare at folks and make them back the hell up because he’s strong as f*ck and pink as f*ck and full of sandwiches and ready to kill you dead.
The Authority’s doing that dumb thing where they book obstacles for themselves for no reason to prove points nobody’s asking them to prove, though. Stephanie suspends Brock Lesnar for trying to beat up Rollins and going too far (ostensibly to get him out of the picture so Rollins can survive), but now they’re bringing him back to FACE Rollins so Rollins can show that he’s good under pressure? Even though that’s what the ladder match at Money in the Bank kinda was, and he won by himself? Plus, he’s the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Does he have to prove he can be SUPER CHAMPION? You got him here via manipulation and a magical briefcase, who is trying to prove what to whom and why? Can we get some real clarification on this in a broader sense? I know what you’re saying on Raw sounds good, but how the hell does it vibe with everything else you’ve said and done for a year? Is the story that The Authority was cool with Brock being champ and never being on the show, and Rollins went into business for himself on the cash-in, so they’re trying to make it right? Because Brock is best for business? WHO ARE THE HEROES HERE, WHAT IS HAPPENING
I’m excited, though. They’re already remembering plot points and everything. Welcome back, TBI.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
The Insidious Mr. Delsaberyama
The top 5 rappers in the world today: Seth Rollins, Seth Rollins, Seth Rollins, Seth Rollins, Seth Rollins.
Cena: “Someone get some fluids! Dean Ambrose has a cramp in his leg or something!”
Triple H: “No, John. He’s selling.”
Cena: “Screw the t-shirts! Ambrose looks like he’s in pain!”
Triple H: “THAT’S THE POINT!!!!!!”
You’d think Sheamus would just hide that case at the end of a rainbow.
B/c of Kevin owens..the segment I only look forward to now involves Cena…Owens really is a bastard.
So Dean gets a match with Sheamus, and then he’s good with leaving the ring because…
…oh, because he’s also bored with Orton/Sheamus. That checks out.
“This is PRESTIGIOUS, and you’re just making a mockery of it!”
Odds that Barrett said the exact same thing to WWE Creative after last night’s match: 100%
The Longest Tard
Guys – if you do picture-in-picture with the hockey game – whenever they show CM Punk it’s kind of like its a half way decent episode of Raw.
Bean and Hambrose
Neville doing his best Rachel Dolezal.
Heath Slater’s like “wait, you’re allowed to attack the guest stars?!?”
Everytime Kevin Owens powerbombs someone, a dad gets his hot wings.
Thanks, everybody. See you next week.